She said she has always had an interest in philanthropy, and in 2004, she started a stuffed animal drive at her school for the Indonesian earthquake. It would have cost her $4,000 to ship the thousands of stuffed animals she had collected, so she donated them to a local children’s shelter instead.
Kelsey Eenigenburg, 21, greatly influences the Athens community by the ways she contributes to Extra Special People, ESP, a non-profit based out of Watkinsville, Georgia.
Eenigenburg is from Chicago, Illinois and is a senior at The University of Georgia majoring in human development and family sciences. She is also working toward obtaining a minor in consumer economics and a certificate in entrepreneurship.
Eenigenburg is expecting to graduate in May of 2016. Her dream job is to be the community relations director for a professional sports team.
“I believe that athletes have such a platform to perform in, and they can really impact young kids who look up to them. I would love to be able to help them reach their potentials for a living,” said Eenigenburg.
Eenigenburg intends to achieve those dreams through the work and internship experience she has gained from ESP.
ESP serves individuals with special needs and their families. The goal of this organization is to focus on the individuals’ abilities, rather than their disabilities.
“It’s where my soul gets filled up. I love working a job that’s not really a job,” said Kalon Carpenter, ESP’s coordinator of recreational programs.
In August of 2015, Eenigenburg became the special events intern at ESP despite no prior experience with the organization.
Each year, ESP hosts a variety of events and programs. Their biggest event is the Big Hearts Pageant, which will take place on Feb. 13 at the Classic Center.
Putting on events like the Big Hearts Pageant is Eenigenburg’s main job with ESP. She also works on volunteer coordination, sets up percentage nights in Athens and reaches out to local businesses for sponsorships and other logistics.
Eenigenburg is in charge of organizing a sorority competition for the Big Hearts Pageant to help market and fundraise for the event. Additionally, she works on public relations and marketing with social media pieces, mailers and blog posts on the website.
“Kelsey advertises for ESP in a really positive way, and she is as big of a part with ESP as the paid staff is,” said Brittany Hendricks, a recreational therapy intern at ESP.
Eenigenburg dedicates a lot of her time weekly to ESP. She volunteers every Thursday for two hours with their 360 program in addition to her daily internship duties. The 360 program is an after school program in which Eenigenburg is paired up with a buddy and participates in two classes such as karate, swimming, dancing, cheerleading, cooking and theatre with her buddy.
“It’s a great way to really give back to ESP in a more personal way because I get to hang out with the kids,” said Eenigenburg.
ESP offers an abundance of resources for families and children dealing with special needs. Without ESP, these families wouldn’t have after school programs, and the kids wouldn’t get to experience summer camps. It also raises a lot of awareness about special needs.
“The best thing about ESP is the people,” said Eenigenburg. “Everyone is so welcoming, and I have loved every person in the office. Another thing I like is that ESP is in a huge growth phase. We are in the process of building a huge, new facility that will give ESP everything it needs and a huge new staff, group of volunteers, and donors. It is really cool to see the changes that are happening.”
Eenigenburg is a true inspiration to the Athens community.
“Working at ESP has really opened my eyes to how much work it takes to keep a non-profit running,” said Eenigenburg. “Every employee works well over 40 hours a week, and their dedication is so inspiring to me.”
“Kelsey is a great intern,” said Carpenter. “She helps us make connections to run events and get donations. She is a very funny person with the perfect personality for the job.”